Local Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe teams up with Raw Beauty Talks and Free to Be to lead social media change
More than any other television genre, reality programming is fuelled by social media self-promotion. From Kardashians to “real” housewives, recognizable personalities combine marketing savvy with social media presence to extend their time in the spotlight, hawk merchandise, and—in the case of one of Canada’s very own—support good causes.
Kaitlyn Bristowe was a television fixture for two seasons of ABC’s most famous dating franchise, appearing on both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette in 2015. With an Instagram following over 1.5 million, she’s keenly aware of the impact social media has on the lives of celebrities and consumers.
“When I was on the shows, I expected negative responses—but people were attacking my looks and attacking me for just being who I was,” she explains during a summer visit to British Columbia from her new home base in Nashville (where she resides with fiancé Shawn Booth, naturally.)
Given her personal experience, Bristowe recently teamed up with Raw Beauty Talks, utilizing the hashtag #Realstagram to support the organization’s programs. Among their current initiatives is a crowd-funding campaign in aid of Free to Be, an educational course designed to improve self-esteem and encourage consumer savvy among teen media users.
“Social media is the way of the world now, so I want to be passionate about it and I want to see a change,” explains Bristowe.
Here are a few pieces of important advice on how to become a better social media consumer…
1. Follow something real
Bristowe’s favourite Instagram accounts to follow include Raw Beauty Talks—known for honest images of the female form in its many shapes and sizes. “I have always been passionate about Raw Beauty Talks,” says Bristowe. “It’s a space where you can go and share your stories. They are committed to raising self-esteem and trying to make a difference.”
The organization is a Vancouver-based non-profit that aims to increase self-esteem among a culture overwhelmed by social media. Its founder, Erin Treloar, explains her theory simply: “I recommend looking at social media the same way that you would a magazine. It can be fun, inspiring and a way to ‘check-out’ for a moment but it’s not real life.”
This summer, Bristowe is using her hashtag #Realstagram to back the cause but the effort doesn’t simply stop with a trendy photo caption. Instead, the concept promotes the Free to Be fundraising campaign. Targeting students between grades six through eight, the program provides badly needed awareness and education tools. The team behind the concept hopes to raise enough capital to develop a curriculum that can be easily enacted across North America.
2. Use an informed eye
Following accounts that highlight honesty is one task, but consumers should also be wary of content shared by popular social media users. “Life sounds glorious online,” says Bristowe. “But you don’t see behind the scenes. It’s a highlight reel."
Treloar echoes the sentiment. “People only show highlights of their day on social media so it can become a very one-dimensional representation of life,” she says.
“I scroll through and I don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore,” Bristowe admits. “People that are very high up in the media world probably have a team working behind every photo to make it look picture-perfect.”
And she’s correct. “A lot of the images that are produced by companies and influencers require glam squads and professional photographers,” affirms Treloar.
3. Be brave
Raw Beauty Talks—and the Free to Be program created by Renae Regehr—celebrate content that encompasses a more complete vision of the daily experience. Bristowe, however, can confirm that it’s not always easy when members of the public begin to respond... and nitpick.
“I wanted to be real,” she admits. “There are times that I have thought maybe I should just quit social media but then I thought, ‘No, I am stronger than that. I don’t want to let them affect me that much.’”
Negative feedback is daunting, but Bristowe ultimately tackles it with an unapologetic sense of self that has become a trademark of sorts.
“I tried to switch my mindset and understand where those negative comments are coming from: they reflect others’ insecurities and have nothing to do with me,” she says.
4. Call your own shots
Treloar reminds social media users of all ages that they are in the driver’s seat.
“I think the most important thing for people to remember is that they are in control of what they see in their feed,” she advises. “As you scroll through social media, notice which posts make you feel inspired, empowered and happy. Follow accounts that add something positive to your day [and] unfollow accounts that make you feel like you’re not enough.”
And Bristowe has taken on this challenge personally.
“I have done a social media detox where I go weeks [without] reading too many comments or I don’t scroll or even not post for a day.”
5. Support younger consumers
According to leading non-profit Common Sense Media, consumption of entertainment media among younger consumers is staggering: up to nine hours per day.
“Most of that is heavily produced and only showcases a limited beauty ideal,” argues Treloar. “It has a great effect on the way we view ourselves.”
“I see how damaging [negative feedback] is to myself as an adult and then you think about youth that are growing up now in the age of social media. You are so fragile at that age.”
The Free to Be program rises to the challenge with their informative sessions. In a series of discussions with students, the campaign’s “Esteem Team” hones in on core guiding principles: Understand. Critique. Empower.
“Trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is so dangerous on social media,” explains Treloar. “We don’t know the full story behind many posts.”
Free to Be’s value to teens is proven by its unique offering. Help better understanding the digital world is not easy to come by.
“This is not taught in school. It should be now!” trumpets Bristowe. “You’re learning about who you are. You’re influenced by your peers. You’re just figuring things out. There should be these programs out there; a place of confidence and self-love.”
6. Speak up and speak out
Supporting programs like Free to Be (and its associated crowd-funding campaign) is an important step in increasing awareness and improving attitudes. So is simply speaking up.
“I think we’re starting to have the right conversation about it,” says Bristowe.
And those conversations can be amplified online.
“A positive aspect of social media is that it gives consumers a voice that businesses and individuals can’t ignore,” offers Treloar. “We have a long way to go but we are seeing change.”